Paul Oakenfold

With Ferry Corsten and Sharam of Deep Dish. Wednesday, July 6, at Modä.

Hating British trance DJ Paul Oakenfold is like hating Wal-Mart -- it's not that much fun.

Like the ubiquitous superstore, Oakenfold is officially the biggest and most successful at what he does, namely, playing clubs all over the world, selling mix CDs, and producing remixes for top-shelf pop artists. In fact, Guinness declared him just that: the World's Most Successful DJ.

Also like Wal-Mart, Oakenfold is high-profile and routinely faulted for questionable quality. But Wal-Mart sells a pair of unworn blue jeans for $9. Who can hate that? Oakenfold has moved a million copies of a mix CD, something no other DJ has done. An Oakenfold mix is often the one lonely bit of electronic music in the collections of hard-line, "techno's for sissies" rock consumers. People who know jack shit about dance music know Oakenfold. There's power in that.

Hating Oakenfold, then, is almost like wishing for the demise of electronic music itself. If Wal-Mart suddenly went Chapter 11, the GDP of the country would almost be cut in half -- or at least it seems that way. If Oakenfold called it quits, the dance industry would likewise shudder. In 2001, he signed an unknown Russian trance act called PPK to his Perfecto label, and the resulting single sold 300,000 copies and became one of the biggest club hits of the year. Oakenfold wields a trickle-down effect that provides nourishment to scores of lesser-known artists -- if he gives frequent rotation to a given producer's track, other DJs will snatch it up too.

It's also fair to say that Oakenfold has been the leading ambassador of electronic music, bringing it to far-flung markets previously closed to it. Last year, he released Great Wall, a two-disc live mix recorded at the Great Wall of China. Although expat Westerners have been throwing underground raves on or around the Wall for years, his performance was the first officially sanctioned event by a professional DJ.

And penetrating the elusive Asian market is not the furthest he's gone in disseminating his brand name. In the mid- and late '90s, Oakenfold was able to sneak his brand of completely unsubtle, towering trance tunes into the belly of the beast itself: the rock arena circuit. He was the first DJ to play England's Glastonbury Festival, and he opened for the Rolling Stones and U2. In 2003, he was granted the right to remix Elvis. It's almost gotten to the point where Oakenfold's not just the biggest fish in the pond. He's the water.

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